The AIRS Story

The vision for creating artist supported studio spaces within Vancouver schools began in 2015, with the Art and Discovery Studio when when a disused art room in Florence Nightingale Elementary, a public school in Vancouver’s East Side, was restored into  a working studio.  Through the support of the Rennie Foundation, the  school  was able to retain an artist-in-residence to work collaboratively with teachers and their students within the studio.  

The Art and Discovery Studio has since become a vibrant hub of shared creative expression, that has contributed to a sense of belonging for individual students and for the whole school community.  It has also established itself as a viable model  for providing rich, ongoing, visual arts  engagement for students within schools.

“Studying art in many forms, is an essential part of success in school, work and life. I have seen it build critical thinking and self-confidence. In many of my schools I’ve noticed the quality of art study is disappearing. Over all my years of being in schools and youth organizations I noticed that Florence Nightingale has a unique set of students. I believe it is because of the studio space dedicated to arts. The students at Nightingale are excelling, engaged and have a thirst for knowledge.” 

Christine MacKenzie, visiting artist 


In 2016, the studio hosted two community roundtables involving art educators and arts community partners across multiple fields, including universities, public schools, arts organizations and galleries.  These discussions sought to affirm the importance of the visual arts in education and how the use of surplus space and community partnerships could provide opportunities for equitable and sustainable education in the visual arts. One of the outcomes of the roundtable was the development of district criteria for an artist in residence studio program and the establishment of a second artist supported studio space at Sir Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary.   The following year,  the Vancouver School Board approved studio spaces in four additional elementary schools and the Artist in Residence Studio program or AIRS was launched. 

Through a partnership  with Emily Carr University of Art and Design, to sponsor a studio space at Mount Pleasant Elementary School, and additional funding support from the Vancouver School Board and other financial partners we expanded the program to 8 schools the following year.   For the 2019/20 school year we are adding pilot residencies in 6 additional schools.


“I wish we could stay here forever.” 

Queen Alexandra Student